Hey there magic people! Enjoying my Commander Legends reviews so far? You can find the roundup page here, with links to all the other parts. Today I’ve got the biggest, most meatiest part of the set. I think the 30 Uncommon Partner Commanders are the best part of Commander Legends. They’re like a gift to the Magic community: a massive archive of easy-to-get, cheap-to-buy, fun build-arounds. For building purposes, I’m going to try and get a copy of each of them. I recommend that to all deck builders out there. I’d also give a good hard look to the foil options for these guys. Some will be almost as cheap as the non-foil, and will likely be much more valuable going forward. Plus shiny!
From the art, I would have thought Alharu, Solemn Ritualist was a Kor, but instead he’s a giant soup-making human monk. I mostly like this a lot, except the CMC. If he was 4 instead of 5, I’d be really excited. The abilities are both great. While you have to target other creatures with the +1/+1s, they don’t have to be yours, which can be political or sneaky with stuff like Generous Patron and Meekstone. The second ability is fantastic. Generating flying spirit tokens is endlessly useful, and having it be a hedge against removal or a sacrifice payoff is extra juicy. I think this is probably a 99 card, honestly, because it would do a lot of work for something like Daghatar the Adamant or Teysa Karlov. I think this gets better with more colours, like green and something else, and might be a little clunky as a Commander. Solid, though.
Curses are the bane of the archaeologist, but many will pretend they don’t exist at all. Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist shouldn’t run from the curses, he should embrace them. Curse decks employ nasty player auras like Curse of Thirst, Curse of Exhaustion and Overwhelming Splendor. They often are 5 colours, because there aren’t many Curses total, but I feel like you could get by on 3 colours as long as black and white were 2 of them. Being able to swap Curses from player to player to fit the needs of the Curse caster is one way to make Curses more playable. Don’t forget about serious clock Curse of Fool’s Wisdom. Now there are plenty of other applications for this, from getting around big equip costs on stuff like Commander’s Plate and Blackblade Reforged, to simply optimizing your buffs. What’s extra strong is the CMC, a reasonable 3 with only one W, and the trigger being on combat. That means it happens the turn you play it, unless it gets killed. Cheap, effective, flavourful and equally able to support ferocious competitive power and wacky jank, this is a home run.
Every Napoleon needs his tiny horse to help him carry his big old ego/hat into battle with him. Keleth, Sunmane Familiar is a tiny horse for a bigger force. While it’s cheap and grows with every outing, the power level here is really low unless adding +1/+1s to your generals is going to get the job done. Still, it’s okay for My Little Pony fans, and other horse decks, since there are few horses overall. Not much to see here, unfortunately.
Who doesn’t love a 5/8 Angel token, or a 2/5 Saproling? What? If you like weird numbers, Prava of the Steel Legion is your cat soldier. This seems strong. While the buff is tokens and your turn only, tokens are easy to make and come from all sorts of interesting places, like Mimic Vat. Helm of the Host and Encore creatures. Adding +1/+4 plays well with toughness matter cards like Angelic Chorus, Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim, and Belligerent Brontodon. This would do really well for other Commanders like Arcades, the Strategist, Doran, the Siege Tower and Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice. I like the interaction between this card and stuff like Harmonious Archon and this it’s worth a look for almost any white token deck, even something like Elenda, the Dusk Rose. The cheap CMC, token making ability and even the 1/4 body are all sweet, and play well together. A great cat and a great soldier too. This might be another home run.
When it comes to the Partner Commanders, I think I like the cheap CMC ones better at base than the expensive ones. Commander games sometimes end early, or get mana-strangled, and a high CMC Commander might just sit there and do nothing. It has to at least make an immediate splash. I do not feel that Radiant, Serra Archangel gets there for 7CMC. The body is merely okay for that mana, and while protection is one of the best key-terms a creature can have, you need extra help to get this attacking early enough to matter. Keeping it in play will be easier, but might cost you your other attackers, blockers or activated abilities as you tap those creatures. The fact that the tapped creature needs flying makes this even narrower. The original Radiant, Archangel also underwhelms, so at least this is consistent with that.
Protection from CMC, or Converted Mana Cost, is a newer concept that we’ve seen on Lavabrink Venturer and Haktos the Unscarred recently, though it hearkens back to Mistmeadow Skulk from Shadowmoor. It’s a unique ability, but undeniably powerful. I don’t think it would be too hard to build around Rebbec, Architect of Ascension and make my artifacts protected from almost anything, the question is what to do with that? Could be vehicles, like Demolition Stomper. They have cheap CMCs that would be friendly to the concept. Big beaters like Metalwork Colossus and Colossus of Sardia could be fun, too. On the competitive side, getting some artifact-based loop, lock or infinite combo going, and keeping it protected with Rebbec, is what I’d expect to see. Pairing this with one of the other artifact-friendly partners, like Glacian, Powerstone Engineer or Ich-Tekik, Salvage Splicer could give this the focus it needs. Cool, but not a complete concept in and of itself.
If there was a fashionable pickle girl, maybe a social media influencer, she’d probably be named Brinelin. ‘Brinelin’s Dilly Picks,’ or maybe ‘A Slice with Brinelin.’ I’m gabbling about hypothetical pickle girls because I’m struggling with saying something about Brinelin, the Moon Kraken that isn’t just a dismissal based on CMC. 8 is too much in this day and age for this card. Bouncing is cool, and a repeatable bounce is powerful, but this is simply too expensive to be a good combo piece or value engine. I’d play this with another 6CMC payoff in Imoti, Celebrant of Bounty and it would be worth a look for any Sea Monster concept, but that’s about it. With a green partner, you could get the mana needed for a card like this to actually appear in some games, but there’s literally hundreds of better ways to spend it. Not a fan.
Protecting your Commander can be something you do just as a matter of course, or something you do to keep a fragile combo from falling apart too easily. Esior, Wardwing Familiar is a tough sell on me as a Partner, because I don’t see a Partner that needs protection that badly, but this could be worth it in some 99s. All the various bird decks, like Kangee, Aerie Keeper, would probably like this. Something to keep in mind is just how much spell-based removal there is out there. That targets. There are a few pinpoint kills spells, like Swords to Plowshares and Anguished Unmaking, but a lot of Commander removal is on a bigger scale, like Wrath of God and Blasphemous Act. Sweepers or boardwipes. And without also making abilities cost more, this might be very, very narrow.
We all remember the barely playable flamboyance of the original Ramirez DePietro, don’t we? Look at that CMC based on what you get. No power creep in Magic, definitely. Thankfully, ghost Ramirez has moved on. I’m really stoked about the potential here. Good CMC, okay stats, solid types and tough to block. Those are all cool. But the second ability is new territory. My first thoughts are Madness and Mill, which is a kind of madness. You can potentially use this to loop Madness cards if you have a decent discard outlet, or self mill and cherrypick from your graveyard with a card like Court of Cunning. Turn cycling cards, even the Lonely Sandbar into a reusable draw engine. Nice. The fact that you can do that to other players as well is fascinating. It’s not much more than a political favour, I think, but it might disrupt reanimation strategies or even Threshold, Delirium or stuff like that. Weird, but so cool. Obviously you want some double-strike with Ghost of Ramirez DePietro to max out the combat damage, and Partnering this card with Armix, Filigree Thrasher seems like a great start to a fun deck. Love this card.
I’m confused by the huge humans sometimes. Where does Glacian, Powerstone Engineer‘s enormous …toughness… come from? Being an artificer, the first think I’d think of is that he’s a cyborg, but then he’d probably be an artifact creature. Part of the 3/6 is propping up the 6CMC, which I think is high. This compares to Merchant’s Dockhand, though it dumps stuff in the graveyard, which can be a huge thing for some decks. Overall, I think this is blah. The ability doesn’t excite me and requires an untap to use, making the CMC look even worse. This has great synergy with Lightning Greaves but that’s 90% of Magic’s creatures. Maybe with an artifact-loving partner that will provide the path to victory, but I’m ice cold on Glacian.
I have a deck in mind for Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator already. I love this card. Why? Like many of the pirates in the set, it has a friendly CMC and some evasion to help it get going. But Malcolm here is missing a word normally found in text boxes that pushes him into extra cool territory. Am I glad, well… yes! The word is ‘combat.’ The damage trigger that makes treasure tokens here is NOT tied to combat. Any damage will do. Hello, Lightning-Rig Crew. Hello, Pirate Ship! Long time no see. I will be pairing this with Breeches, Brazen Plunderer, which also has a sweet damage trigger that doesn’t need combat. Vance’s Blasting Cannons should be Breeches and Malcolms’ Blasting Cannons. List to come!
As a Commander, Siani, Eye of the Storm doesn’t excite me. Flying creatures and scry are both fine things for a deck to focus on, but you’re relying on your other cards to be more interesting and splashy. I’m assuming. Maybe you want a reliable flight of well-supported aircraft that doesn’t want to make it complicated. Siani will enable that deck for sure. While Siani’s types aren’t supported much, I feel like it could be an honorary ninja, and would do some really interesting things in a Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow, where evasion and topdecking matter so much. The CMC is expensive for evasive dorks in a deck like that, because you plan to bounce and recast them a lot, but it’s also a 4 damage topdeck for Yuriko. Better than decent, but still not very exciting.
The video-gaming world is full of stylishly lethal constructs like Armix, Filigree Thrasher. There are only two other Legendary golems, in Karn, Silver Golem and Bosh, Iron Golem, and they’re very humanoid. This gets huge points for style and may have some great synergy with something like Ghost of Ramirez DePietro, but other than loading it up with equipment, I’m not really sure what to do with it. It has a small-scale combat-based payoff, and very small body for a combat creature. The CMC is great, and it’s very cool that this is an artifact in black, but I think this does better at theme-enabling than anything else. I like it, but feel like it won’t be built much for power reasons.
So far, the Commander Familiar cycle has been underwhelming. Falthis, Shadowcat Familiar is probably the best one so far, granting two useful abilities, but I think it’s still pretty narrow. The two abilities kind of clash a bit, too, since Menace is more of a deterrent to blocking at all, rather than a magnet for two creatures to the deathtouch. I don’t know what other Partner wants this, especially since the buffs apply to Commanders only so it barely helps something like Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper. Maybe Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder, or in the 99 for Garza Zol, Plague Queen, Judith, the Scourge Diva, Kazarov, Sengir Pureblood or newcomer Kelsien, the Plague. The CMC isn’t amazing either. This would look a lot better at 1B. If there’s a huge demand for nightmares or black cats, this might get you there, and lots of people will fall in love with the art, but card-wise, this is okay at best.
Riding around on some wacky mechanical spider legs seems complicated and maybe clunky, like Keskit, the Flesh Sculptor. Sacrificing 3 creatures/artifacts to cast a painless Dark Bargain is of questionable value, but has enough moving parts that we can pick up value in all sorts of places whether it’s good or not. 3 mana to cast this is definitely good, and the 1/3 body is welcome, because this would rather hang back and try not to die too much than attack. The tap ability is slow, but needs no additional mana, which is okay. Getting piles of extra creatures to sac may seem tough to pull off, but cards like Bitterblossom, Dreadhorde Invasion, Ophiomancer and even Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder can pile up creatures for you. Revel in Riches can get the job done too, though you might want to hoard your treasure instead so you can win. It’s when you get into things like death triggers, reanimation, and such that Keskit starts to look scary. Think Black Market or Marionette Master. Thrilling Encore would be cool to toss into such a deck, and there’s always Grave Pact and Dictate of Erebos to make your sacrifices everyone’s sacrifices. Dawn of the Dead doesn’t exile a sacrificed creature that was reanimated with it, which plays really well here on several levels. I think Keskit can definitely be a thing. I’ve played a bit with the somewhat similar Priest of Forgotten Gods, and it has been amazing. Great potential that rises with a serious token Partner.
If dark elves is a niche archetype, it’s at least a fresh and exciting one. Commander Legends really pushes black elf creatures with some fantastic entries. Miara, Thorn of the Glade is pretty much limited to a black or black/green elf deck, or even full Jund with Tana, the Bloodsower, but is a fantastic choice for the dark elves. This is super cheap and gives you the kind of payoff you need to make a niche creature deck work: card advantage. I like the idea of pairing this with Tana for Jund Elf Allstars, with Numa, Joraga Chieftain for Golgari Elves, and with Nadier, Agent of the Duskenel for an all black deck that makes green tokens. Awesome. I love that Miara can trigger on token elf deaths, and herself. The best of all worlds. The mana requirement isn’t ideal, but you might want to leverage the lifeloss with something like Font of Agonies. Lots to love here. Shhhhhh, it’s time to spear.
Don’t blink, it’s Nadier, Agent of the Duskenel! Or wait, maybe we want to blink Nadier. Actually yes. Get me my Voyager Staff or call Livio, Oathsworn Sentinel. Having a token-splosion happen when a creature dies isn’t uncommon, but having it happen when it leaves the battlefield is a pretty neat upgrade. Same with the upgraded death triggers for tokens. While making a tall elf might not win many games without a lot of help, making tons of tokens only needs a lord or two to become an overwhelming force. It’s odd that the tokens are green, but it’s doubly awesome that they and Nadier are elf warriors. Those are seriously strong types. The CMC here is a bit of a gag. I’m assuming it’ll be paired with green enough that it won’t matter too much, and this is a Commander you might want to die. I think it still gets there, and could do well in plenty of token, death trigger and warrior decks as well.
Based on Tormod’s Crypt, printed a generation ago now, I would expect that the eventual Tormod card would be some kind of zombie wizard that deals in exiled graveyards. Tormod, the Desecrator hits the mark nicely. This is a solid zombie, first and foremost. Zombie decks love zombies who make other zombies. They’re the bread and butter and brains. Passively triggered abilities that require no mana are the best kind, and I’m sure most zombie decks can find strategically advantageous reasons for cards to leave their graveyards. Everything from Phyrexian Reclamation to Relentless Dead to God-Pharaoh’s Gift to Varina, Lich Queen. It’s a long list, and Tormod provides a token compliment for them all. Considering an opponent is likely to nuke your graveyard in response to your shenanigans, this is even a hedge against hate. Oh yeah, and it has Partner. Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus gives some great colours plus an already fantastic and fun zombie commander. Kraum is terrific, and I think Tormod is too. I might even build that deck. Home run!
I feel like Alena, Kessig Trapper could be broken. The idea that you can play a Phyrexian Dreadnought and net 11 red mana is something to chew on. Cosmic Larva or Nova Chaser works ok, too. How about Lightning Greaves, making Alena able to tap for 4 red on the turn she enters play? Maybe it’s Sneak Attack, Ilharg, the Raze-Boar, or Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded that cheat monsters into play, like Emrakul, the Promised End. Throw in some Warstorm Surge for fun, and Combustible Gearhulk for nasty synergy all around. Cragganwick Cremator seems good. So what do we play with all this, Partner-wise? If we want to win a lot, there’s Kodama of the East Tree. That combo scares me. Green helps get this 5CMC red card into play. The CMC might be a drawback under a lot of circumstances, but considering the mana potential of Alena, it’s worth pushing for. I could talk about the 4/3 body, first strike or creature types, but I don’t think I need to bother with added value. Fireworks.
I have plans for Breeches, Brazen Plunderer. I’m going to pair the goblin pirate with Malcolm, Keen-eyed Navigator and shoot my opponents with my pirate cannons for value. No combat required. Playing my opponents’ cards is one of my favourite things to do in Magic. I love the card Stolen Strategy, which will probably go in the deck. Breeches not only helms a mean crew, he’s great for all the red pirate Commanders, especially Admiral Beckett Brass. He could even be worth it in a Changeling build. Home run!
We needed at least one giant pirate, didn’t we? Even if we didn’t, Dargo, the Shipwrecker is just plain fun. I’m not sure this is great, as it’s one of two payoffs. The first is a 7/5 trampling pirate, which is a medium threat in Commander. Three hits is Commander lethal, though. Fiery Emancipation or Jeska, Thrice Reborn can get the job done in one. You can get this cheap, not matter what the tax, if you have stuff to sac. I like that any sac reduces the cost, like that from Keskit, the Flesh Sculptor, a possible Partner. The second payoff is a mass sacrifice. Again, questionable as to how that makes an impact, but if you need a pile of death triggers, or want to fill your graveyard for Living Death this does that. Everything about this card is usable, really, unless you need to build a raft. Unusual, cool, and possibly good.
Whoa baby… lizard. Being a 1/1 lizard is the cute, friendly part. Elementals are an up and coming type, and this can certainly live in the Command zone, but this is a crazy enabler for Commander Voltron decks that load the boss up with buffs and kill the whole table at once. We can probably find a Partner to do that with, and while Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder is a strong option, I think it’s more about what kind of nonsense we can load the Commanders up with up with. And the other support cards, too. I like Chandra’s Incinerator, as the damage echo from Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar sure counts as non-combat damage. Of course you can do Grafted Exoskeleton, but try not to. Damage doublers and now triplers are easy enough to use. This rewards a whole swathe of nasty, aggressive Commanders. Very very good card.
Cheerio, mates! Free Commander ahoy! Not a pirate, Rogakh, son of Rohgahh? What exactly are you? I think, ultimately, you’re a combo piece. Cloudstone Curio gained a pile of value recently and I think you two might be related. That means Impact Tremors or Altar of the Brood threatens lethal very very early. A black partner gives you a ton of tutors. With Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools, Rogakh is a powerful free draw 3 when sacrificed to the second ability. Seems good. A blue Partner protects the combo with counters. A white one has a few relevant tutors and some answers. For once, green plays fair. If you’re not turning Rogakh into a doomsday device, I guess you can play him for fun and maybe suit him up with janky equipment. Shrug. I think this is a cute mistake.
Wizards keeps printing Landfall cards that don’t say Landfall. Tireless Tracker stands out because it’s so good, but how about Toggo, Goblin Weaponsmith? I think this has some very intriguing potential. We start with a decent CMC, ok body, and combo of top-flight tribe and artificer. Yay, artificer. Inventor’s Goggles, right? The Landfall-not-Landfall ability makes rocks, which seems like it should be dumb, but might be bonkers. The rocks are artifacts and tokens. Start with Reckless Fireweaver. They can be equipped for free to something like Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale or Kazuul’s Toll Collector and then Golem-Skin Gauntlets ends the game. …Not really, but what’s really interesting is the fact that when the rocks are sacrificed (a trigger you can use), it’s the creature doing damage. It won’t be combat damage, but all kinds of creatures trigger on any damage done to players or other creatures, from Abyssal Specter to Zebra Unicorn. Both somewhat bad examples, but you get the idea. Throwing rocks looks like a lot of fun, and I can just imagine the tokens people are going to show up with. Just don’t do it from inside the City in a Bottle, rock stars! Toggo is a janky home run that might have the chops to do it for real. Damage doublers/triplers/infect/yikes.
Indestructible is nothing to snarl at, and on a Commander, can be the scariest thing out in the wilds. Anara, Wolvid Familiar might be the best Familiar, both because indestructible is great, and Anara is green. Not subtle, but does it have to be? The CMC/power/toughness all being 4 is pretty nice, and wolves are going to get some gas next year in Innistrad. Beasts even have some payoffs, like Wirewood Savage. This pairs pretty darn well with Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder and that deck could be full of werewolves. A cool idea I could see myself building. The cynic in me says green ftw once again, but I can’t help loving this.
Decks that shoot for high-CMC spells could use Gilanra, Caller of Wirewood, and with a Partner like Brinelin, the Moon Kraken, it could form a high-priced surf n’ turf duo. Very steakhouse. But I feel like a 3CMC mana dork isn’t great, and a card draw payoff doesn’t wow me either. Gilanra can do work, and helps you get to those 6-drops faster, but those 6 drops are the real draw. Not sure this is the greatest enabler, but it’s totally worth a try.
While Halana, Kessig Ranger wants so badly to pair with Alena, Kessig Trapper. They were spoiled together, and painted together, and look at each other if you put the cards next to each other the right way. And they could totally be partners, but they’re not really as compatible as they want. Alena wants to play with the combo crowd, while Halana wants a bunch of deathtouch creatures to appear. There’s some crossover, but the biggest deathtouch creature they can play together is Wurmcoil Engine, and that’s small for what Alena can accomplish. Halana is best, I think, with Silas Renn, Seeker Adept. Great colours, deathtouch partner, and an artifact subtheme to build around. Wurmcoil Engine can be a great card in that deck, too. I’m just waiting for the set that makes archers something to fear. Greatbow Doyen is waiting for that day. Lost in all of this is that Halana is a great card, a solid CMC and a pretty good, fun build-around.
I’m totally crazy for Ich-Tekik, Salvage Splicer. This is so many things I want in a Commander. As a Partner, Ich-T is a plan that can easily be complemented by any of the other new artifact-centric Partners. White is a good choice, because Rebbec, Architect of Ascension is a good choice, and the golem splicers, like Master Splicer, Blade Splicer and Splicer’s Skill are great for the deck. In blue, Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator would be a great choice because treasure tokens leave the battlefield naturally and make your team bigger, and you can play Arcane Adaptation and do golem pirates! Golem pirates! Golden Guardian‘s time to shine! Akiri, Line-Slinger seems like a good fit, too. I wish the CMC were 4, not 5, but I can’t have everything, and it’s green. Not sure I’d say home run, because this probably does more for me than most, but I’m very happy with the potential here.
Elves have a lot of competition when it comes to buffers and lords and stuff that makes all the little green men into not-so friendly giants. Because of that, Numa, Joraga Chieftain is really depending heavily on the Partner mechanic to make the difference. What this does is your standard elf team buff plus the colour(s) of your choice. Not a bad thing at all. And you can maybe do two tribes, or elves with other jobs. Warrior is a good one, and Numa’s p/t and CMC are solid. Good card, if not new and unique.
Between hydras, oozes and the occasional Ivy Elemental, there are plenty of creatures that are entirely made of +1/+1 counters stacked on a 0/0 body. That’d be where I’d start with Slurrk, All-Ingesting. Ooze-lovers, and you’re out there, get a great Commander option that could even be played all by itself. Reyhan, Last of the Abzan would add black and a ton of synergy, and why wouldn’t you? That seems like a cool pair, and you could treat the oozes and such as either what preyed on the Abzan, or what they became. I have a deck that wants this card, built around Nethroi, Apex of Death, and a crazy pile of 0 or * power creatures. The high CMC doesn’t matter at all to that deck, and while it’s not ideal, at least is in green. Solid card, especially for an ooze.
Drafting Commander Legends is what the corporate overlords had in mind with the set, but Covid had other plans. A lot of The Prismatic Pipers will be opened and not used for Draft, which is too bad, because a huge chunk of what this card is good for ends there. It’s great for Commander Cubes, and how you do a Commander Battlebox might open up some utility for the lil Piper, but the primary purpose is drafting. I wrote a column about how you can do a randomized rainbow deck with the Piper, with a core based on the other partner and several modules of different complementary colours. You decide how you want, but it can totally be by diceroll. Not for competition, but your kitchen table doesn’t care.
Partner rewards creativity, and that’s something I can always get behind. I loved the mechanic when it was introduced several years ago, and these 30 uncommons are a delicious buffet of goodness that we can all enjoy. They’re not all great, but they each have something to offer. Tremendous. If you can’t find your jam here, you might not be into sweet things. Thanks for reading! Your life matters. Black Lives Matter!